Common Weight Loss Myths Debunked
Weight loss advice is so common (and contentious) these days - especially now, as we are about to roll into a new year. Talk of New Years Resolutions are not only abundant, but expected. Many of these resolutions revolve around improved health, better eating habits, and of course, weight loss. Yet competing opinions are everywhere.
Well, I’d like to suggest it’s time we forget about “who's" right and start focusing on “what's" right. After all, “what’s right” is what’s going to get results.
I respect you too much to make empty promises and try to sell you on something that doesn’t work.
There are way too many weight loss myths out there. But in this post, I’m going to tackle the top ones I come across in my practice.
Myth: Calories cause weight gain
Calories are important for weight loss. If you eat and absorb a lot more calories than you use, then your body’s wisdom will store some for later.
Calories do matter. But, they are not the “be-all and end-all" of weight loss. They’re important, but they're not necessarily the the cause of weight gain. So if calories don’t cause weight gain, let's consider some common reasons people eat more calories than they need. In other words, let’s look at some common causes behind weight gain.
People tend to eat too many calories in general. But what may surprise you is that they don’t eat because they're hungry!
Typically, people eat for the following reasons:
They feel sad
They are lonely
They are bored with nothing better to do
They eat mindlessly out of habit
They are tired and have no energy for anything else
They are stressed, or
They're happy and want to celebrate
You may have noticed a common thread here. These reasons behind eating are tied to emotions. All these feelings and emotional states interact with our gastrointestinal, nervous and hormonal systems to influence our calorie intake.
So calories themselves may not cause weight gain, but the reasons why we consume too many of them can.
Myth: Eat less and move more to lose weight
If everyone only ate less and moved more, then we'd all be in tip-top shape, right? Because people have been doling out this advice, or should I say myth, for years.
The premise behind this is based on the first myth - that calories in minus calories out equals your weight. So, if we eat fewer calories, and burn off more, we should automatically drop weight. Unfortunately, this is not necessarily the case.
Even if people can happily and sustainably follow this advice (which most people can’t), it completely negates other factors that contribute to weight problems. Things like the causes of overeating we mentioned above. Not to mention our genetics, health conditions we may be dealing with, or our exposure to “obesogenic” compounds, or those that tend to cause obesity.
But the best way to debunk this myth is with a brief understanding of human biology.
Human beings were designed to hold on to calories and retain fat stores when faced with starvation. This was a great adaptation for our ancestors when food and calories were scarce and they didn’t know where their next meal was coming from.
For modern beings, on the other hand, restricting too many calories still makes our brain think we are in starvation mode. In such a state, our body holds on to stored fat for use later. Unfortunately in today’s society, “later” never arrives.
This is a common reason why people on severely calorie-restricted diets can’t lose weight. Though they may lose weight initially, weight loss typically stalls. No matter how much they starve themselves, how much they restrict calories, or how hard they exercise, the rest of the weight simply won’t budge. Why? Their body is holding on to stored fat and won’t let it go!
When you eat fewer calories than your body needs (and it needs a considerable amount to carry out its daily bodily functions at rest), your body will automatically switch into survival mode. It’s smart that way, as its main goal is to survive. Part of this switch involves a slowing down of your metabolism as your body tries to conserve energy for later. And for those of you who may not know, the slower one’s metabolism, the longer it takes to burn calories and the harder it is to lose weight.
This is why “eating less” may actually have the opposite effect to what we intended.
Myth: All calories are the same
Can we please put this myth to bed already?
Science has confirmed that several caloric components of food differ from others.
One of these components is the “thermic effect of food” or TEF. The TEF indicates the number of calories required to metabolize or breakdown certain nutrients. Foods with a higher TEF can slightly increase your metabolism, just by eating them.
When you metabolize protein you end up burning more calories than when you metabolize carbohydrates, for example. Even though proteins and carbohydrates both contain 4 calories/gram, the TEF of protein is 15–30% while the TEF of carbohydrates is 5–10%.
This means that eating the same number of calories of protein will increase your metabolic rate more than carbohydrates will.
Here’s another example that proves not all calories are created equal. Different fats are metabolized differently. Medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) have the same 9 calories/gram that other fats do, but, they are metabolized by the liver before entering the bloodstream. In this way, they are used by the body quickly, not stored the same way other fats are.
Bottom line? All calories are not created equal!
Myth: Eating fat will make you fat
I know, I know. This sounds counterintuitive.
We might tend to think that eating more fat would cause us to gain weight, but this is not necessarily the case.
Now, of course, the type of fat consumed makes all the difference!
If the fat you consume comes from fried and fast foods or from processed industrial oils, then you likely will gain weight.
But our bodies and brains need fat to not only survive, but to thrive! Healthy fats from avocados, avocado oil, extra-virgin olive oil, or grass-fed meats are necessary. Every cell in our body has a membrane, or coating, that is composed mostly of fat. In order for your cells to perform their normal daily functions, they need fats.
And of course, or brain is made of about 60% fats, so feeding it the right kinds of fat will keep it working optimally. And who doesn’t want a brain that works well?
Fats are also considered “essential” because they are vital to human growth and development. Because our body cannot make fats, we need to obtain them from our diet.
Problems arise when fats are combined with too many carbohydrates or sugars, or if they come packaged with processed carbohydrates in the form of donuts, cakes and cookies.
So eat your fats, but eat the right kinds of fats! Doing so will not cause weight gain, but may, in fact, result in weight loss.
Myth: There are magic pills/potions that lead to lasting weight loss
Unfortunately, there is no magic pill for weight loss. No supplement, tea, food, or other potion will do the trick.
Some products make these claims, but they don’t hold water. The only thing you will lose is your money (and possibly your hope). So, please don’t believe this myth. There is a reason why most people who lose weight can’t keep it off.
Weight loss is hard! There are too many people claiming they have come up with a simple weight-loss solution, or the latest and greatest trend in weight loss.
But remember - if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Don’t fall for myths that say:
Calories cause weight gain, so fewer calories lead to weight loss.
Eat less and move more to lose weight.
All calories are the same.
Eating fat will make you fat.
There are magic pills/potions that lead to lasting weight loss.
If you’ve fallen for any of these myths in the past or you’ve tried every weight-loss “solution” out there without results, as I once did, it’s time you looked at food, weight loss, and “dieting” differently.
There can be many different reasons why your body may be holding on to unwanted weight. And I can help you determine what may be holding you back. Call or email to schedule an appointment with me today. Don’t worry if you are not in the Kamloops area, we can meet through my secure online portal.
As always, I’d love to hear what you think. Send me an email or comment below with your thoughts.
And if you’d like help with lasting weight loss in the new year without falling for common weight-loss myths, I’m there for you. Contact me so that I can help you lose weight the right way! No gimmicks. No myths. Just the right foods for you, your current health status, and your goals.
Don’t forget, you can also sign up for my all-new, updated meal planning service. Lasting weight loss is possible - if achieved the “right way!” I look forward to helping you get there!